Art for Dead Heads
From Burlington Free Press:
Art for Dead Heads
By Tim Johnson
Free Press Staff Writer
Wouldn't you know? You duck into the Jerry Garcia art exhibit hoping to escape the heat and the familiar global disasters only to find yourself staring at a portrait of ... Saddam Hussein, with heat waves coming out of his head, no less.
No need to dwell on that, though. Garcia's artistic sweep has its share of colorful, uplifting images, too. They're especially uplifting if you're a Grateful Dead fan. It's the Dead fans who flock to shows like this, after all, not the art connoisseurs. So said Margaret O'Brien, coordinator of the exhibit at the Wyndham Burlington hotel, which ended Sunday.
"They're buying memories as opposed to art," O'Brien said.
Those who could afford to buy them, that is. Signed Jerry Garcia prints are not cheap. Prices ranged from a few hundred well into the thousands, even tens of thousands for an original watercolor. Signs invited visitors to "ask about our great layaway plan."
Looking was free. Grateful Dead music played in the background.
O'Brien works for Image Makers Art of Paoli, Pa., which sells celebrity art -- John Lennon, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett and Mickey Dolenz (Mickey Dolenz? That's right, the Monkee). Jerry tops them all.
"Jerry Garcia," O'Brien said, "is our biggest selling artist." She said Garcia sells quite well in Burlington, but she wouldn't say precisely how well. Image Makers, a for-profit company, bought all of Garcia's artwork from his publisher and gets all the proceeds.
Burlington was the latest stop on a tour that had passed through Boston, Albany, Toledo and Cleveland. Next? Melville, N.Y., on Long Island.
New England is the best market for Garcia art, she said. There are more fans here, possibly because the Dead played here a lot.
Paul Fallon of Essex saw a lot of those shows, and he's only 37. "Providence, Hartford, Lewiston, Highgate, Foxboro, Boston Garden ..." he said Sunday, holding a toddler as his wife, Kristen, pushed a stroller around the room. Kristen Fallon was a graduate student working on a thesis in 1995, and she remembers right where she was when someone called to tell her Garcia was gone.
Most of the art displayed Sunday was done in the last 10 years of Garcia's life. He had gone to art school at age 15, O'Brien said, before his music took over. In 1986 he came out of a diabetic coma and was encouraged to do art as a kind of therapy. His first work from that period, "Blue Iceberg," was on display Sunday. Other works included a cubist nude, a New York cityscape and the album cover, "Not for Kids Only" -- the only album cover and self-portrait Garcia did.
Paul Fallon had seen the art before only in books, or on TV, or on the ties. For him and his wife, the exhibit brought back some pleasant memories.
"There was nothing like a Grateful Dead show," Kristen said.
"There was nothing like a Grateful Dead show," Paul replied.
Contact Tim Johnson at 660-1808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.